Packers at Lions: Predictions, 5 things to watch
TEAMS: Green Bay Packers (12-3) at Detroit Lions (3-11-1).
WHEN: Noon CT on Sunday.
WHERE: Ford Field in Detroit.
TV: Fox with Kevin Burkhardt (play-by-play), Charles Davis (analyst).
RADIO: AM-620 in Milwaukee, FM-101.1 in Green Bay; Packers Radio Network.
SERIES: Packers lead, 101-72-7.
LINE: Packers by 12½.
WEATHER: Domed stadium.
COACHES: Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur (12-3) vs. Detroit's Matt Patricia (9-21-1).
LIVE GAME BLOG: Join Tom Silverstein for analysis and lively conversation.
NFL: Live scoreboard, box scores
ROSTERS, STATS: Packers | Lions
5 THINGS TO WATCH
1. SEEKING THE BIG PAYBACK: The Packers had lost four straight to the Lions before beating them with the help of a controversial hands-to-the-face penalty on defensive end Trey Flowers in October. Without that penalty, Detroit would have had a minute and a half left in which to drive for the game-winning field goal. Instead, the Packers ran the clock down to 2 seconds and Mason Crosby hit the game-winner. The Lions surely haven’t forgotten that game. On the other hand, the Packers have plenty of players who were on the field for a 31-0 thrashing they took at Lambeau Field in Week 17 last year and the 35-11 beatdown in Week 17 two years ago in which the Lions ran a trick play on a 2-point conversion with the game easily in hand. There could be some bad blood and the Packers will have to be careful not to do something stupid.
2. WINNING THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE: Last week against a healthy and capable Minnesota Vikings offensive line, the Packers' front seven dominated. Even if running back Dalvin Cook had been healthy, it’s questionable how much of a difference he would have made given how badly the Vikings lost on the line of scrimmage. The Lions have been banged up of late on the offensive line and the Packers will be looking to take advantage. Left guard Joe Dahl and backup Kenny Wiggins are on injured reserve. Seventh-year veteran Oday Aboushi has held up but the Packers will target him with a heavy diet of Kenny Clark and Za’Darius Smith. At right tackle, second-year pro Tyrell Crosby, who filled in admirably the last two weeks for injured Rick Wagner (knee), will have his hands full with Preston Smith and Rashan Gary.
3. BIG OPPORTUNITY FOR AARON JONES: With two touchdowns, running back Aaron Jones can break the franchise single-season record of 20 set by running back Ahman Green in 2003. Green surpassed Jim Taylor’s record of 19, which had lasted 41 years. The only player who had threatened it before then was receiver Sterling Sharpe, who had 18 touchdowns in 1994. Jones (1,415 yards and 19 TDs) has already joined Green (2,250 yards and 20 TDs) and Taylor (1,580 yards and 19 TDs) as the only running backs in franchise history to post 1,400-plus yards from scrimmage and 15-plus TDs in a single season. Jones has a chance to become the first Packers player since Taylor in ’62 to lead the NFL in touchdowns. Jones leads Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey by one heading into Week 17.
4. RECEIVERS RUNNING WILD: For a couple of years it was Marvin Jones Jr. piling up big numbers against the Packers. Now, it’s Kenny Golladay. In 2016-17, Jones had 22 catches for 468 yards (21.3 average) and five touchdowns against Green Bay. In 2018-19, Golladay has 11 catches for 299 yards (27.2) and two touchdowns. Jones is on injured reserve, but Golladay will be ready to put on another show. He leads the team with 62 catches for 1,118 yards and 11 touchdowns despite playing most of the season without starting quarterback Matthew Stafford. Because of Golladay’s size (6-4, 214), expect defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to put cornerback Kevin King on him and let the smaller Jaire Alexander face 5-11, 185-pound Danny Amendola.
5. LOOKING AHEAD TO 2020: The Packers' schedule for next season is set except for two games. In addition to their division schedule, the Packers are matched up with the South in both the NFC and AFC and play the first-place teams in the NFC East and NFC West. In the West, the Packers will play the winner of the Seattle-San Francisco game Sunday on the road and in the East they’ll play either Dallas or Philadelphia at home. The Eagles win the East if they beat or tie the Giants or if the Cowboys lose to Washington. If Dallas wins and the Eagles lose, the Packers will play the Cowboys at home. No matter what the Packers do against the Lions, their road schedule will include Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Houston and the three other NFC North teams. Their home schedule includes Atlanta, Carolina, Jacksonville, Tennessee and the three other NFC North teams.
The Packers have everything to play for and plenty of reason to want to return the favor of a Week 17 beatdown by the Lions last season. I don’t know if it will be as bad as 31-0 (the final score last year), but the Packers should take this one easily. They should be home in time to watch the 49ers-Seahawks game that will determine whether they are the No. 1 or 2 seed. Packers 41, Lions 17
The Packers are playing for a playoff bye. Detroit has lost eight straight games and will have David Blough, not Matthew Stafford, at quarterback. Anything else you need to know? Packers 31, Lions 13
The Packers have come too far, positioning themselves too close to a first-round bye to stumble against David Blough & Co. In the ideal scenario, they jump out to a big, early lead and cruise from there, resting quarterback Aaron Rodgers and several other key starters in the fourth quarter. Packers 30, Lions 9
The Packers won’t take Detroit lightly and will want to wrap up a bye (and maybe some second-half rest) so they’ll take it to the undermanned Lions. Packers 31, Lions 13
If the Packers lose to this team, they have some bigger problems coming in the playoffs. Packers 30, Lions 13
Detroit has too many injuries to count, while the Packers are the picture of health. This will serve as a nice playoff tuneup and a chance for the offense to finally put it all together. Packers 34, Lions 17